Category Archives: patterns

On Saying What I Want to Say

I spent many, many years in environments where it was only safe to express a need or opinion when it was in agreement with those around me.

Naturally that led to ignoring and hiding what I wanted and needed. And eventually I forgot what those wants and needs were. I no longer knew what I liked to do, what felt fun to me, what my dreams were. Any dreams I had were chosen based on what someone else thought was a good idea.

My life was built around pleasing others. I worked a job that would be considered “worthy,” I listened to music that they would approve of, and kept very quiet about any interests I had that might fall outside of what they would be comfortable with.

It’s been a long (and ongoing) process of re-learning who I am. The pattern still shows up a lot more often than I would like. The most obvious symptom is that I tend to stay quiet and talk myself out of saying what I want to say. And doing what I want to do. It’s easy to convince myself that it doesn’t need saying. Or it will be too hard to do and not worth the effort.

Growing up, it was never okay to be “wrong,” so I try to avoid making mistakes via inaction and silence.

I’m seriously sick of that shit.

My work with clients lately has been about helping them get clear on what they want and need, and be willing to speak up about it.

And in my Soul Conversations, something I hear over and over is that our souls want to help us fulfill our desires. In other words, the things our hearts want? They’re not random. Nor are they wastes of time.

Our desires are actually the things we’re meant to pursue.

Yet I find myself holding back from telling you about these things. Because I was met with indifference or even disdain in the past, it’s what I expect to be met with now.

But we don’t get to control others’ responses to our choices, so trying to live our lives as though we do is pretty fucking pointless. Yes, I might be met with criticism and rejection but I’m tired of shrinking away from doing and saying what’s important to me just because it’s scary.

The scariness will always be there, especially if I’m pushing myself to live at my edges. If we’re operating from the seat of our deepest truths, not everyone will approve. I’m trying to remember that I’d rather experience someone’s disapproval than to hide from the life I really want to live.

And besides all that, if I keep hearing the same messages from multiple souls about the necessity of pursuing one’s desires, don’t those messages apply to me, too?

I don’t know where this will lead me, but I know I’m tired of hamstringing myself by waiting for a guarantee of safety. Risking rejection is just the price of admission. A frequently uncomfortable price, for sure, but the older I get the more I’m willing to pay it. It’s about fucking time.

Truly Believing

I’ve been thinking a lot about beliefs lately.

For one thing, I believe we can change our beliefs. (Ooh…meta!)

But I’ve been very aware lately that my responses and reactions to various situations don’t seem to line up with what I believe.

For example, if I believe that the process of creating something is more important than the results, why does it feel like an unrecoverable disaster when I launch something that falls flat?

That sense of failure is a big struggle for me.

Intellectually, I know that none of that effort is wasted. There’s learning and experience woven throughout, just waiting to be assimilated.

I found myself asking, though, when would I reach the point where I would feel it in my bones? When would I know it so well that a setback was no big deal?

But asking that question means there’s an underlying assumption that’s gumming up the works.

The assumption I’m making is that if I truly believed that none of my efforts were wasted, I wouldn’t feel disappointed.

In other words, it’s not okay to be disappointed in how a project turns out because then it means I don’t really believe the process is more important than the results.

But is this true?

What’s true is that I feel disappointment.

Part of that is coming from not getting what I want. And sure, part of me does feel I’ve done all that work for nothing.

But the rest of it? I think it comes from what the “failure” says about me.

It’s about the meaning I attach to failure.

A disappointment turns into a disaster when we assign meaning to it in unhelpful ways.

And it doesn’t much matter what it is – if I make a plan and that plan doesn’t go the way I want, it cues a chorus of loud, angry voices saying things like:

I’ll never figure this out.
This is too hard.
I’m not good at this.
I’m not cut out for this.
I should just give up.
I should have known better.

But does a mishap or setback or disappointing outcome really mean any of those things?

Drawing those conclusions from a setback (however painful) is really a form of self-sabotage. If I define myself as a failure ever time something doesn’t go my way, it’s way too tempting to give up.

The truth is that a disappointing outcome is nothing more than a disappointing outcome. It’s okay to want something to turn out in a certain way. And it’s okay to feel disappointed when it doesn’t.

It’s okay to grieve and even throw a tantrum.

(I think there’s a lot of drivel out there that implies if we’re “doing self-development right,” we’ll never feel negative emotions. On an unconscious level I’ve bought into that, but it’s complete bullshit.)

It’s not easy – at all – but I’m working on remembering that the only person who gets to assign meaning to my setbacks is me.

Since we were all taught what meanings to assign various outcomes from a very early age, the grooves in our brains are well worn. So we can’t expect to unlearn them overnight.

Just like meditation, it’s a practice.

As you meditate, your mind wanders and you just keep going back to your breath, time after time.

The goal of meditation isn’t to reach the point of not having thoughts. In fact, the more you try to stop your mind from wandering, the more it will happen. Rather, you’re trying to meet your mind’s tendency to wander with kindness, letting go of the thought and returning to your breath. No matter how frequently it happens.

In the same way, when dealing with the fallout from a setback of some kind, you’re not trying to squelch the disappointment (or anger, sadness, grief, frustration) you feel. All you can do is meet the sad parts of yourself with compassion, while choosing the meaning that works for you. Over and over again.

I’m choosing (well, trying to choose) to see setbacks as a necessary step along the path. And slowly I’m learning to meet the accompanying emotional upheaval with acceptance. To allow myself to experience the emotions without believing they define me.

It’s completely counter-intuitive, but the more I accept who, how and where I am, the more quickly things shift.

Do the setbacks still hurt? Yep. Do I still wish I would “just get over it already?” Yep. And then eventually I remind myself that the meaning is what I say it is. Again.

What meaning do you assign to setbacks and disappointments?

How would it feel to choose a more supportive meaning?

Loosening and Letting Go

Once, a long time ago, I changed the strings on my guitar and was in the process of getting it back in tune.

I kept cranking on the tuning heads to tighten the strings, but before I could get all six strings tuned, a few of them would slip and go out of tune again.

I could feel the sense of panic tightening my chest. I’d never had that happen before.

Even worse, what I didn’t realize was that every time the strings slipped, the neck was actually curving forward a little bit.

All I could think was, “WTF?”

Also, “Shit, shit, shit!” because I had no idea how to fix it and no idea if I’d already ruined my precious guitar.

Thankfully a friend knew what to do. The first thing he did was to tune down all the strings until they were completely slack.

Then he adjusted the metal rod inside the neck of the guitar to straighten it back out.

Only then did he tune the strings back up.

*****

Sometimes, the only way to move toward your goal is to go in reverse.

Of course, going in reverse looks an awful lot (or exactly) like moving away from the goal, so you resist.

But if you continue to push forward in ways that don’t work, eventually you will cause damage. You’ll realize you’re exhausted and heart-broken. Or maybe depressed and cynical. Or ill and in physical pain because you’ve worn your body out.

It’s not easy to move away from your desired destination in the short-term so that you can get there in the long-term.

You need an enormous amount of trust. Trust that even if you have to take a detour, you can still get there. Trust that you can know the difference between a necessary course-correction and a backing-off out of fear. (Nothing wrong with feeling afraid, mind you, but changing course isn’t the best remedy.)

Trust that even if you never get there, you’ll get someplace else just as good, if not better.

Even deeper than that, often we’re unwilling to stop pushing because we’ve tied our self-worth to accomplishing our goal.

Rampant in our culture is the belief that racking up achievements is how we prove that we’re worthy of the space we occupy in the world. So not pushing means risking non-achievement, which means risking not being worthy.

So we hold on and keep pushing toward our chosen destination. The thing is, sometimes you just can’t get there from here.

*****

Loosening all your metaphorical strings feels excruciatingly painful. Initially it can feel even more painful than continuing to push forward.

How do you know it’s time to take a big step back? When it feels like stepping back would be a disaster, the end of the world. When you repeatedly catch yourself getting frustrated but tell yourself to keep trying just a little bit longer. When denial is part of your daily routine.

How do you go from pushpushpushing to being willing to let go?

Sometimes the transition happens out of necessity – burnout, depression, and fatigue are great catalysts.

Whether the catalysts are there or not, whether you’ve been pushing for a long time or not, you start by being willing to feel your emotions without dulling them.

Follow the threads of frustration, sadness, anxiety, anger, fear…they may point to some reality that doesn’t look the way you want. Or to some outcome you’re unwilling to let go of. It’s not about eliminating these emotions, it’s about listening. Your emotions are messages about what you want and need.

Then, connect with unconditional love. Imagine your heart filling with it. Imagine what it would feel like to experience it.

Unconditional love is what will make it easier to stop and heal if necessary, because you don’t have to do anything to be worthy. You just are.

From that place, it will be easier to see what next step will be best for you. Trust your heart – it won’t lead you in the wrong direction.

Letting go in this way doesn’t mean abandoning your dream. It just means learning to move toward it in ways that don’t cause damage. And in ways that honor your worth and who you really are.

Loosening the Knots

image: knot

Have you ever gotten a knot in some thread or yarn you were trying to work with? Or worse, in a chain necklace?

You can’t untangle it by diving in and tugging and pulling on it. That will just make the knot tighter than it already is.

It’s a delicate process.

You need to go slowly and work your fingertips into the barely-visible crevices.

It’s a process of making tiny movements. And if the knot is really tight, the movements will be so small that you’ll be convinced that what you’re doing isn’t working.

But that’s when you need to keep going. Even though you can’t see or feel the difference, the knot is loosening. Even if it’s just at the microscopic level.

Eventually, you feel that fabulous sensation of really being able to grab hold of one part of the knot. From there, it’s a cakewalk. You might have been struggling with that knot for hours, but once you reach the point of the first major shift, it only takes a few more minutes for the whole knot to be gone.

It’s the same with shifting a belief that holds you back.

We all have them. I’ve got tons – tons! – of them.

Here are some of mine:

Other people know what I need more than I do
My ideas aren’t very good so I should wait until I’ve developed them more before talking about them
I absolutely must Get It Right

Noticing the belief-knot is the first step. But once you’ve become conscious of it, you can’t force radical change.

If you’re like me and believe that mistakes are to be avoided at all costs, the step that comes after realizing the belief isn’t helpful is not to go out and make the biggest mistake you can possibly think of.

Or if you believe that other people’s projects (OPP!) need to come before yours, running out and telling everyone you come first is probably not a wise move.

Doing either of those would be the knot-equivalent of tugging on the ends and making everything tighter because all your resistance will get triggered.

Safety

The belief is there because it’s keeping you safe from some perceived danger. It doesn’t matter if the danger is real or not.

You need the safety of those tiny movements to loosen the knot gently.

(To bring in another metaphor, when you’re learning to swim, you don’t start in the deep end, right?)

If you grew up witnessing a family member fail at one or more entrepreneurial ventures, you might feel that starting your business or leaving your job is too risky.

The knot-tightening method would be to invest all your savings right away or quit your job with very little savings in the bank.

But what would the knot-loosening method look like?

A few possibilities would be to start your biz with as little up-front cash investment as possible, or to start socking away several months of savings, or to go part-time rather than quitting outright.

What’s important is that you’re taking small steps toward what you want, in ways that feel safe for you.

Proof

If you believe that failure is catastrophic, you don’t just wake up one day willing to take all sorts of risks. You need to learn that failure isn’t actually dangerous, and that you can survive it without sacrificing too much.

The way you do that is by building a body of evidence that supports your new belief.

The best evidence is when you try something and experience for yourself the fact that you survived just fine. And that goes right back to safety – it’s crucial to find ways to take steps without freaking yourself out so that you can experiment with your new belief.

Will failure still hurt, or will you still feel scared? Yes. But the amount of emotional management required before taking a risk will decrease. And the time between getting an idea and acting on it will shorten.

Perseverance

Some beliefs are knotted more tightly than others. They’ve been part of your reality for longer, or there’s more pain associated with them.

If you’ve got one that’s really tight, it could take a long time for it to unravel.

It might not feel as though the tiny steps you’re taking and the evidence-gathering you’re doing are making a difference, but I assure you, they are.

(Yet another metaphor: Just like a seed that’s been planted, lots of stuff happens underground before you ever see the green above the surface.)

Remind yourself why you want to shift the belief. And what you hope to achieve as a result of choosing a new belief instead.

Keep working at loosening the knot while being gentle with yourself along the way, and soon it will unravel.

Image credit: turbo.beagle

Looking for Clues

In my past jobs, there was always something I couldn’t stand about them.

When my misery at the thought of staying outweighed my fear of the unknown, I’d leave for what I hoped were greener pastures.

Except usually the pastures were only greener for a short time, and then a pack of dogs would run over, piss on the grass and turn it yellow.

I’m not sure what the dogs represent in this metaphor.

I often felt that my inability to enjoy what I was doing was my fault. Or due to character flaws that I’d never be able to fix.

Which I guess would mean that I was the pack of dogs pissing on my own green pastures?

It took a long time for me to realize this, but those crazy-making things about my jobs were actually clues pointing me toward what I needed my work to look like all along.

  • The feeling of meaninglessness pointed to the fact that I need my work to have purpose.
  • Being annoyed with stupid questions meant I need to work with smart, sensitive people.
  • Being exhausted at the end of the day from dealing with too many people meant I need to honor my introversion by having time to work in solitude.
  • Winding up bored easily meant I need to be able to use my creativity at work.
  • My low bullshit tolerance and belief that silly rules don’t apply to me meant running my own business would likely be a good fit.

I wasn’t the pack of dogs killing my own grass, I was on the wrong pasture to begin with.

Don’t get me wrong. Do I have some rough edges that could use smoothing? Hell, yeah. Who doesn’t?

The point is that I wasn’t unhappy at work because I was broken.

Remember the Puzzle Pieces? Our personalities and gifts and strengths – by their very nature – mean that some work will fit and some won’t.

It’s a process. You think you know what shape work you need, so you try it.

Maybe it fits and maybe it doesn’t.

All you can do is to notice what did and didn’t fit so that next time you can look for a Work Piece that fits better with your Essence Piece.

Most importantly, an ill-fitting Work Piece doesn’t indicate a problem with your Essence Piece.

But it can show you more about what kind of work will fit you. And that’s true whether you work for the Man or have your own business.

What can you understand about the kind of work that’s fulfilling to you – who you serve and how you help them – by looking at what’s not working now?

What If It Could Be Easy?

That’s the question I’m asking myself lately. About lots of things.

I’ve realized that I tend to expect difficulty and complication.

Regardless of the how or the why, when I expect something to happen with ease, it usually does. (And even when it doesn’t, the expectation of ease seems to help me respond to the non-ease better.)

The trick seems to be remembering to expect ease. Because when you’ve had 30-cough years of expecting difficulty, that makes for a pretty well-worn synaptic pathway.

Do you ever catch yourself gearing up for a situation by playing out all the ways it could go wrong? I totally do that. What will I do if things don’t turn out the way I want? What will I say if they get angry? What kind of crappy customer service will I get today? How will I respond if they accuse me of blah blah blah?

Not helpful at all. Things usually work out fine despite playing out the worst-case scenarios, but how much more pleasant would my life be if I could approach those situations neutrally, if not optimistically?

An example (and an acknowledgment)

A few days ago I had to go grocery shopping by myself. Usually if I need to go, I arrange it so my husband is there, too. Not very efficient, but there you have it.

As I was psyching myself up to leave the house, I was pondering what an easy shopping trip would look and feel like.

And then, just as I was about to head downstairs to leave, the cat decides to throw up. And of course it was on the carpet rather than on the tile, where it’d be ten times easier to clean up.

Now, I don’t make a habit of sharing my cat’s digestive mishaps on the blog, but here’s why I’m making an exception today:

Sometimes things aren’t easy. Or at least not as easy as we’d hope.

So please know I’m not sitting here telling you that if you’d just expect ease, life would be All Easy, All the Time. Follow that line of thinking to its logical conclusion and it implies that the hard things happen because we didn’t exercise proper thought control. And that’s just bullshit.

And yet…

By the time I was in the car and had shaken off my own shame about my tantrum, I was back to thinking about grocery shopping, and how it might be possible for it to be easy.

Although things didn’t go 100% smoothly (how dare they be out of Havarti Slices again?), I didn’t feel bombarded by other people’s energy. And it didn’t take as long as I thought it would, even though I spent extra time looking around for treats.

Despite the initial departure delay, overall it was a decent experience.

So I guess the other trick is, when the expecting ease thing falls short of providing ease, to trust that things will still work out in the end.

Endless possibilities…

I’m continuing to experiment with this idea – and trying to apply it to bigger things than household chores.

Like…

What if writing a blog post could be easy? I’ve been blogstipated for over a month now, and lo and behold, here’s a post. (Well, sort of. See below for ironic update.)

What if finding a buyer for our rental property could be easy? What if dealing with the bank on the sale could be easy (and quick)?

What if it could be easy to finish writing my ebook?

What if launching that ebook successfully could be easy?

My prediction:

I’m sure sometimes I’ll think about how something could be easy, and it will be easy. Other times, my cat will throw up on the carpet.

Regardless of the outcome, the question will certainly be a reminder for me to approach stuff that has a history of difficulty with more openness.

If nothing else, it will prompt lots of noticing. Noticing where I might be making a situation harder than it needs to be.

It will open a space to pause and choose an easier way. When I can.

Ironic update

I started writing this post last Wednesday.

And since the shopping trip, there have been lots of not-so-easy stuff popping up (including a touch of writer’s block), which makes me a bit nervous to publish this.

So in case it’s not clear: I’m not saying that expecting ease is a guarantee of ease. Obviously, it’s not. Which is why I’m calling it an experiment. I want to practice influencing what I can influence – even if it’s just my own perception and experience of events.

Really, this is about doing what I can to give myself what I need.

How about you?

Care to join me in this experiment? It can be as simple as asking yourself the question when you remember to ask it, and noticing what comes up. This isn’t about piling on more shoulds.

And guess what? If ease isn’t your thing right now, replace it with whatever quality you’d like to experience more of. (What if it could be fun? What if it could be calm? What if it could be…?)

What helps you find ease?
Or, what quality do you want more of these days? How are you going about getting it?

Join the Shmorian Society for discounts, advance notice of good stuff (like that ebook I mentioned), and my free 30-day eCourse, the Shmorian Project Prescription. Fall in love with your project again, so you can get it done!

What’s in a Name?

You know that feeling when you’re about the press Publish and something isn’t quite right? But you don’t know what it is so you press Publish anyway?

Here’s a post about that.

Last week I announced my special offer to celebrate my first year of full time self-employment.

I kept getting this niggling little feeling about it, even after publishing it, but I couldn’t identify what it was about. So I asked Hiro to help me with it.

She helped me see that the way I had named the offer (“the Sticking-It-to-the-Man Special”) had the wrong focus.

It’s centered around what people don’t want. And it also reflects who I used to be, not who I am now.

Who I was

For most of my working life, my story was one of victimhood.

My employers always had unreasonable expectations of me. And they didn’t appreciate how hard I was working. And they just couldn’t see that my attitude wasn’t the problem. The problem was that they were asking unreasonable things of me. How could I not protest?

I hated my work and I couldn’t see a way out because I didn’t know what I wanted to do. And then when I figured out what I wanted to do, I still couldn’t act because it was too scary, and I didn’t believe I was strong enough.

I saw myself as a victim of the Man. And I had a lot of anger about all of it.

Part of what I’ve been doing for the last five or more years – starting at the time I decided I had to find a way out of corporate jobs – was shifting this pattern of feeling victimized.

It’s an old story. It really doesn’t apply anymore because I know that I’m responsible for my work life.

Connecting to the offer

When I connected to the essence of my celebratory offer, it showed me a combination lock.

For a split second, I thought I must have seen it wrong. But then I realized, when a door is unlocked, it’s there for the opening.

It’s a symbol of the freedom to do what’s best for me in all areas of my life.

As long as I have the right combination to unlock the lock.

The combination is made up of different things for different people. But it has a lot to do with knowing what you really want and need, and finding ways to give yourself those things.

The point

You see, the problem with referencing “sticking it to the Man” in the name of my offer is that it misses the point.

Sticking it to the Man is about anger and frustration and even revenge. Getting back at the System for all the injustices it foisted upon you.

Yes, sticking it to the Man is about leaving what you don’t want, but it says nothing about what you’re leaving it for.

And when you recognize the power within you to create the life you want, there’s no need to stick it to anybody.

You say no to the things you don’t want.

And you also say yes to the things you do want.

If it’s hard to say yes to those things because it’s scary, you find support.

And the Man is really irrelevant.

So, I’m leaving that old story behind, just as I left my job behind. I’m saying yes to creating work I love and helping other people do the same.

Same offer, new name

Going through this process helped me get clear on why I’m making this offer.

It’s because I want to help you create work that you love to do.

I want to support you in saying yes to the things you want. And I want to help you find the combination that unlocks the lock so you can be 100% YOU in your work.

So I think I’ll rename this offer. Let’s go with…

The Unlock Your Freedom Special

After all, don’t most people start (or have) their own businesses so that they can have the freedom to do the things they want to do, the way they want to do them? And to be able to make changes as their needs and desires change?

There are still packages and sessions available. Through November 5 or until they’ve sold out.

How about you?

Tell me…

What is it you’re wanting to escape from?
What would you like to leave behind?

I’d love to hear about it in the comments.

When the Thing Becomes Too Important

I’m feeling something that might possibly be the beginning of writer’s block.

Writing blog posts took a back seat to prepping to teach the Thing-Finding class.

And then once all of that was over, my post ideas were mostly vague glimmers that I couldn’t quite latch on to. Kind of like when you wake up in the morning and you know you dreamed something really bizarre but you can’t remember the details enough to describe it to anyone. (Or is that just me?)

The glimmers of ideas are coming into slightly clearer focus, and yet it also feels more difficult to put words to paper.

It feels almost as though writing a post has started to become too important.

And that reminded me of other things I want to do but don’t because they’ve become too big a deal.

A couple months ago on Twitter I learned about Zentangles. (Not sure from whom – @AmySeyBrown, maybe?) I was completely fascinated. And I thought it would be the perfect creative outlet for me because it’s simple – you just need a pen and some paper.

But then I read about how the perfect pens for this activity were Sakura Microns.

So I ordered a set.

The first set got lost in the mail (what are the odds?), so by the time I received them over a week had gone by.

(Can you guess where this is going?)

I took the pens out of the box. Opened the package and made some scribbles to see the different pen thicknesses.

And haven’t used them – or made a single Zentangle – since.

So what had happened?

I thought I was giving myself something I wanted by splurging on a set of art pens. But what I really had done was to impose a set of rules for when and how I could start creating.

This pattern is very closely related to the “if only’s” and the “I’ll do x once I ____.”

I’ll get serious about my Thing once I don’t have a full time job.
I’ll write the ebook once our house sells.
I’ll start painting once I can afford an easel.
I’ll knit something once I find the perfect yarn and pattern.
I’ll set up my Etsy shop the next time I use some vacation time.

This stuckness is not about lack of time or equipment or supplies.

It’s deeper than that.

For me and my non-existent Zentangles (and my on-again, off-again relationship with knitting), it’s fear of messing up. Of creating something that’s not good enough. Too much emphasis on the outcome of my efforts.

As for the lack of blog posts, here are some questions I’ve been asking myself about this, along with my answers.

What rules are you trying to follow?

I’ve already let too much time go by since my last post, so I need to hurry up and get something out there.

If I’m going to post something, it needs to be important. And useful. And at least a little entertaining. I don’t want to waste people’s time.

But it can’t be too long of a post. Nor can it be too short.

And the writing itself should feel like it just flies out the tips of my fingers. If the words aren’t flowing, it must not be worth writing.

What are you trying to avoid?

I don’t want to bore people. Or drive my readers away.

Or look like a dumbass.

What’s the kernel of truth in the fear?

That I want my writing to be genuinely helpful.

How can you take some of the importance out of writing a post?

Write about the struggle itself. (Wooo…meta!)

Trust that showing up is, in itself, helpful.

Drop my expectations about how it should look and feel.

Give myself permission to write something even if I decide not to publish it.

Intentionally write something badly. Ramble. Be ridiculous.

Draw a zentangle!*

First zentangle

First zentangle

* This is a perfect example of how getting unstuck in one area (writing a post) can lead to getting unstuck in a completely different area (drawing a zentangle with my fancypants pens).

How about you?

Have you set a condition for doing something (or some Thing), and then found yourself not doing it even once the condition was met? Share in the comments by answering some or all of the questions below.

Or don’t – let’s not make the comments too important. (I would say there are no rules, except, well, there are two: Be nice and no advice.)

What’s the thing you want to do but aren’t?
What rules are you trying to follow?
What are you trying to avoid?
What’s the kernel of truth?
How can you take some of the importance out of it so you can move forward?

(Ahhh…feels good to post again.)

Noticings on the Hiking Trail and Elsewhere

Warning: Post sans point ahead.

I’ve been very aware of certain patterns, lately. When I started writing about them, I hoped I’d have some awesome realization about what it all means, but alas, I have many questions and no real answers. Yet.

But I figured why not share anyway?

Ready? Commence brain dump!

Pattern #1 – Doing things to the extreme

I’ve been trying to get outside more lately, to try to take real breaks instead of the half-assed periods-of-rest that aren’t really restful at all.

Being at the computer during “break time” isn’t restful. I wish it were, because oh the convenience, but it isn’t.

So I’ve been trying to go hiking a few times a week. There’s a beautiful park with trails about 10 minutes from our house.

But what I’ve noticed is that when I’m on the mountain (okay, mountain might be a bit generous, but it’s definitely bigger and steeper than a hill) is that I’m not really enjoying it. Well, I am but I’m not.

I find myself thinking the following:

How far can I get this time?
How fast can I go this time?
Can I make it all the way up to the top?
It’s already been 25 minutes…should I head back now or try to get a little closer to the top?
Uh oh, there’s someone coming up behind me. I don’t want to have to get out of their way yet, so I’d better speed up.

What this all adds up to is that even though I’m doing good things for myself by getting away from the computer, and getting some solitude, I’m not necessarily doing these things in a healthy way.

Is it really beneficial if I’m trying to power up the mountain and See What I Can Accomplish?

Pattern #2 – All activity must produce something

I guess the noticings while hiking reminded me of other attempts at hobbies.

Back before I knew I wanted to be a coach, I started making beaded jewelry.

But somehow that wasn’t challenging enough, so I had to start making the glass beads, themselves.

I got quite good at it, and really enjoyed it, but it was also about continuing to push myself and get better.

There was always a next step, and my next step was going to be buying my own equipment and setting up a studio so that I could start selling my work.

Then for reasons I won’t go into here, I had to quit making the beads. I was devastated, and quit making jewelry all together.

Eventually I realized that I didn’t really want to make and sell jewelry, anyway, and that led me to feel like there was no point in making it at all.

If there is no producing-something-of-value, don’t bother doing it at all? Is that what I really believe?

Is there such a thing as a hobby that produces nothing but is still enjoyable?

Or are those hobbies just not appealing to me, because I’m wired to create things?

Pattern #3 – Practicing and pushing

Driving to the hiking trail the other day, I saw a father and son in a grassy area.

They had set up six or seven orange traffic cones in a line, and the boy was kicking a soccer ball while weaving between the cones.

Then I noticed that the father had a stop watch, and was timing his son as he practiced the drills.

Seeing that made me feel incredibly sad. Even writing about it now, I kind of want to cry.

Just that one little scene triggered so much stuff.

My stuff around competition and sports and needing to push myself to get better at whatever I was doing. From a very early age. And my stuff around winning and losing.

They turned “going out and kicking a ball around” into “objectively evaluating performance.”

Pattern #4 – The knitting

As I’ve mentioned before, I picked up my knitting again and am working on finishing that scarf I started five long years ago.

Knitting is a bit of a weird hobby for me because I feel like I need to be doing something else while I knit. Watch TV or listen to a podcast or something.

But I’ve been wondering if I’m really enjoying it, or if it’s turned into a Thing to Produce.

If I’m doing a “fun” activity that doesn’t absorb my full attention, does it count as fun? Does it provide the replenishment I’m looking for?

All of which leads me to…

I’m very aware that I need to learn how to replenish myself

I’ve started working on a pretty big thing. A big, scary thing that I want to do but oh it’s so scary.

(Which ties in nicely with Eileen’s post where she talks about the contradiction of wanting and not wanting to do things.)

And maybe because it’s big and scary, after I’ve worked on it for a while, I’m completely drained.

Empty drained.

Can’t even hang out on Twitter drained.

And it’s been happening a lot lately. Which is part of what led me to being more dedicated to getting out of the house to go for a hike. And more dedicated to spending some time knitting every night.

I’m also spending more time doing Dance of Shiva (yep, aff link) and practicing the techniques I’m learning from Hiro.

Yet I’m continuing to have trouble recovering from feeling drained. So I’ll keep working on it.

But here are the real questions:

Have I ever done any activity, ever, without looking at it in terms of accomplishment and production?

Is my tendency to look at hobbies or “fun” in those terms part of why I’m feeling so drained and having a hard time recharging my batteries?

Or is this just the nature of the true creative process, and it’s only now that I’ve begun to use the full extent of my creative energy?

I don’t think it’s inherently a negative to find pleasure in creating or producing something. (That’s sort of what art is all about, right?) There’s also nothing wrong with wanting to improve our skills at something.

But where is the line between enjoying it and turning it into a mountain that needs to be climbed or a game that needs to be won?

Today’s comment zen:

This was me sharing my thought process. A process that has not reached conclusion, yet. I want to hear what you think about your patterns around creativity and fun. Can you relate to what I’ve shared?

But please be very gentle with these thoughts and questions o’ mine. Let’s definitely keep this a should-free zone.

When Selves Collide

If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, you probably already know that I like to talk to my blocks and various selves (à la Havi and Hiro). Here’s a little story about some insight I gained by doing this seemingly wacky stuff.

Lately I’ve been feeling completely overwhelmed and tired and generally down, leading to a heavy case of the Blahhhhs. (Yes, that’s the medical term.)

I was so completely devoid of motivation that I wasn’t even able to meditate or journal about it.

Finally, yesterday I got myself to do a little Dance of Shiva and then meditate.

The question I asked before starting to dance was, “What needs to shift in order to stop feeling so stuck?”

A few minutes of Level 4 was about all I could handle, followed by some savasana.

Once I started meditating, I dropped into my heart, and tried to meet with some of my selves, to see if I could get a handle on why I was having such a hard time.

I can’t share much detail right now, but part of why I’m having a hard time is because there are certain things I have to do that I no longer want to do. And when things get difficult during the things-I-don’t-want-to-do, I’ve been having extreme emotional reactions. Despair, anxiety, hopelessness, powerlessness.

Not much was happening amongst my selves, so I focused my attention on whichever self it was who was creating these strong reactions.

Enter Self #1

I don’t know what this self looks like (no defining characteristics like my friend Hedgehog Girl). But pretty quickly I sensed that this self was creating these strong reactions so that I’ll hurry up and make the changes necessary so that I won’t have to do that icky stuff anymore.

She’s afraid that if she stops giving me these unpleasant reactions, I’ll just coast along. The change I want to make will never happen, because I’ll be too comfortable.

Hmmm…interesting.

So I thanked her for caring about me. And for believing that I can make the necessary changes. And especially for her wanting to support me in making this change.

(And I wasn’t just blowing smoke, either. There’s something surprisingly touching about having a part of yourself doing what it can to make sure you accomplish the things you want.)

Then I explained that these extreme emotional reactions are draining me of my energy. And when my energy is drained, I can’t do what I need to do to make the changes I want to make.

I asked her, “What kind of agreement can we make, so that you know I’m making these changes as fast as possible, and you’re not helping me in a way that actually slows me down?”

Silence.

And then I got, “It’s not just me.”

For a second I didn’t know what that meant, but then I realized there were two selves at play.

Hello, Self #2

Self #1 was creating the strong reactions in hopes that I would hurry up and make this change.

But Self #2 was drafting off of those reactions, and keeping me from channeling that desire for change into action toward change.

Because Self #2 is afraid of what the change will mean for me and this (mostly) comfortable life I have. She prefers the devil she knows.

Both of these selves are actually trying to protect me, even though they’re going about it in opposite ways.

One is trying to protect me from withering away in stagnation, the other from taking crazy risks that will put me in danger.

That’s about as far as I got with that meditation before my mind started to wander. But it’s a good start toward unravelling this stuck.

The next step will be to try to help them both see that their attempts to help are actually hurting. And then it will be time to find out what they will need to feel safe enough to back off and cut me some slack.

The beauty of it is, even before they’ve started giving me breathing room, I feel better.

Now when if I have an over-reaction to the things I no longer want to do, I’ll know what it’s about. And I’ll know why it’s so hard to recover and get cracking.

Reaching that point of not beating myself up or asking myself why why why for not doing the things I want to do is a huge step toward changing the pattern.